The phrase "beauty is pain" has stuck with me ever since I first watched
Frenchy say it to Sandy in . I don't flinch when a hairstylist pulls on my knots, because Grease beauty is pain. I don't ask for numbing cream when I get injected, because beauty is pain (also, it takes too long to kick in). Deep nose extractions come with a warning from the facialist because, well, you know.
But there's a limit to how far you can take this motto — and that limit most certainly falls before death. Ahead, the extreme, dangerous, and insane beauty treatments of the past that'll make your next Brazilian seem like a luxurious treat.
Before Crest WhiteStrips, there was... Teeth whitening strips are not without their downsides. You can't eat or sip a glass of wine with them on; you run the risk of irritating sensitive gums around the 20-minute mark; and you have to brush the sticky gunk off after, so really, you can't just whiten on the go as some commercials would have you believe. However, there is one major plus side to modern whitening methods compared to those of the 1900s: They won't make your jaw disintegrate or bore holes inside your body. That's what happened to the women now known as the Radium Girls, who worked as dial painters in clock factories, ingesting small amounts of the glowing chemical every day and using it as a smile-brightener on nights out. "Radium’s luminosity was part of its allure, and the dial painters soon became known as the 'ghost girls' — because by the time they finished their shifts, they themselves would glow in the dark," writes Kate Moore in an excerpt from her book They made the most of the perk, wearing their good dresses to the plant so they’d shine in the dance halls at night, and even painting radium onto their teeth for a smile that would knock their suitors dead." The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women. " In the first two decades of the 20th century, radium was believed to be something of a miracle cure-all and could be found in tonic waters, food items, lipsticks, and yes, toothpaste (we are a people who like our things bright and shiny). Only in 1925, after five had died from radium necrosis, did medical professionals and the public begin to question the safety; it wasn't until 1938 that the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act banned deceptive packaging on radium-branded products and the public became educated about the chemical's fatal effects.
Before Summer's Eve, there was... Beauty products targeted to the vagina have never been more popular — and more divisive. But if you think pH-balanced soaps are anti-feminist bullshit, you haven't seen anything yet. Up until 1960 when the pill was approved for contraceptive use, women were using Lysol — which was widely marketed as safe and gentle, despite reports and linked deaths that suggest otherwise — as a birth control method, as well as for feminine hygiene. Ads from the time even promised that douching with the household disinfectant would help make your "indifferent" (read: raging asshole) husband love you again. Those refreshing on-the-go wipes don't sound too bad now, huh?
Before hairspray, there was... Victorians get a bad rap for being uptight about sex, but you try getting in the mood when your internal organs are being crushed by a corset and your head is developing sores from holding up pounds of hair cemented by lard. The especially unlucky attracted vermin that made little homes among the animal fat-coated strands.
Before Nair, there was... Modern-day porn is hardly the advent of the hair removal trend; you can go all the way back to the Renaissance era, when women with facial and body hair were thought of as "disagreeable and argumentative, muscular, ugly, [and having] a deep voice and frequent infertility problems," according to a 16th-century physician. Of course, they wouldn't have the Gillette razor for another couple centuries, so they had to get creative if they wanted to fit into societal norms. That's where arsenic comes in. A recipe from 1532 recommends boiling a solution of the poison, smearing it on the body, and rinsing when it becomes hot "so the flesh doesn't come off." Laser hair removal sounds downright meditative by comparison.
Before Botox, there was... Admittedly, many people still find injecting a neurotoxin into your face to be pretty damn freaky, but if the choice is between that or an electric mask (or, you know, aging gracefully) to tighten and lift your skin, we're going with the former. Microcurrent facials may be NBD today, but in 1933, they were straight out of a horror film. That was the year Dr. Joseph Brueck invented a moulding mask designed with a battery of heating coils which warmed the skin to banish wrinkles. Oh, and there was a breathing tube for "milady," too.
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